Pokémon: The Legend of Thunder is a television special that everyone should avoid.
Released in Japan as a made-for-TV anime movie called Pocket Monsters Crystal: Raikou – Legend of Thunder, this special saw the light of day in North America as a three-part series that was part of Pokémon Chronicles. For the uninitiated, Chronicles is a spin-off of the main series that features new characters, new Pokémon and never before seen stories, but the English version of this television movie suffered so many cuts that’s almost unwatchable.
Pokémon Chronicles follows young trainer called Jimmy and his childhood friend Marina as they travel around the world battling other trainers. But while Jimmy trains his Pokémon, Team Rocket is experimenting on a crystal that attracts anything electric and they are developing this powerful weapon to capture legendary Pokémon Raikou. Team Rocket uses some electric Pokémon as bait and when Raikou shows up, they use the crystal to weaken the legendary creature. This is when Jimmy and his buddies try to stop Team Rocket from getting the tiger-like Pokémon. Then they nurse Raikou back to health and fight Team Rocket one last time.
Interestingly, the Japanese and English version of The Legend of Thunder are extremely different, since the latter is one of the most edited episodes in the Pokémon franchise. Some of the revisions include music that’s been replaced, some of the character’s named have been changed, several scenes have been rewritten or removed entirely, some Pokémon attacks have different names and the list goes on and on (Bulbapedia has a complete list of changes.) Due to all the changes, the two versions feel completely different and given the chance, the Japanese movie is definitely the one to watch.
Those aren’t the only problems with the first three episodes of Pokémon Chronicles. Chronicles explains everything as if everyone who’s watching it doesn’t know anything about the franchises (we hear about Pokémon types, their strengths and weaknesses, evolutions, names and so on.) In a way, it feels like Chronicles is destined to newcomers or children who have never played the games or watched the anime series.
Additionally, Pokémon battles seem slow and boring, the humor falls flat, the English dub is absolutely horrendous, all characters are underdeveloped and when Raikou (a legendary, one-of-a-kind pocket monster,) shows up, the moment doesn’t feel special. Also, the main protagonists are archetypal characters that are counterparts of the ones we already know (Ash, Brock, Misty, Professor Oak, Team Rocket and so on.) For a series that tries to be a spin-off, it amazes me that Chronicles follows the Pokémon TV series’ blueprint so religiously.
In the end, Pokémon: The Legend of Thunder is a television special that everyone should avoid. If you do decide to watch it, try to find the Japanese version, since it feels more complete and is loyal to the franchise’s spirit. Anyone stuck with the English version would be watching an incomplete, incompetent and laughable adaptation that seldom makes any sense.